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State v. Mitchum

Florida Court of Appeals, Fifth District

September 1, 2017

STATE OF FLORIDA, Appellant,
v.
MUNDEGERICK MITCHUM, Appellee.

         NOT FINAL UNTIL TIME EXPIRES TO FILE MOTION FOR REHEARING AND DISPOSITION THEREOF IF FILED

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Orange County, Reginald K. Whitehead, Judge.

          Pamela Jo Bondi, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kristen L. Davenport, Assistant Attorney General, Daytona Beach, for Appellant.

          James S. Purdy, Public Defender, and Ali Lee Hansen, Assistant Public Defender, Daytona Beach, for Appellee.

          PER CURIAM.

         The State of Florida appeals the trial court's order dismissing the violation of probation charges against Mundegerick Mitchum in five separate cases. We reverse.

          Between March 13, 2001, and March 17, 2001, Mitchum participated in several armed robberies and an armed carjacking. In June 2002, Mitchum pleaded nolo contendere to robbery with a firearm in four of the cases and carjacking with a firearm in the remaining case. Mitchum was sentenced to fifteen years' incarceration in the Department of Corrections followed by fifteen years' probation. The probation orders in all five cases required that Mitchum refrain from violating any law and stated that "[a] conviction in a court of law shall not be necessary in order for such a violation to constitute a violation of your probation."

         Since his release in July 2014, Mitchum has been arrested for operating a motor vehicle without a valid driver's license and for three incidents of domestic violence. Each of these arrests resulted in three separate sets of violation of probation charges in all of the five cases. All of these violation of probation charges were later dismissed by the trial court. However, the State has only appealed the dismissals arising from Mitchum's August 7, 2016 arrest for domestic violence battery.[1]

         Before the hearing on the violations, the State nolle prossed the criminal charge that arose out of Mitchum's August 7, 2016 arrest for domestic violence. Consequently, when the hearing took place, Mitchum's counsel moved, ore tenus, to dismiss the violation of probation based on the State having dropped the criminal charge in the underlying domestic battery case. The State objected, explaining that it wanted the opportunity to try the violation, noting that this was Mitchum's third act of domestic violence since his release from prison in 2014. The trial court ultimately granted Mitchum's motion and dismissed the violation of probation charges in all five cases.[2]

         The State argues that the trial court erred in granting the motion to dismiss because its decision not to prosecute the criminal domestic battery charge does not preclude it from pursuing a probation violation based on the same offense. We agree.

         When the State drops a criminal charge, this is not an acquittal and will not prevent future prosecution if this happens before jeopardy attaches. Gonzales v. State, 780 So.2d 266, 267 (Fla. 4th DCA 2001); State v. Jenkins, 762 So.2d 535, 536 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000); Morris v. State, 727 So.2d 975, 976 (Fla. 5th DCA 1999). In Jenkins, the Fourth District explained this concept as follows:

A nolle prosequi only means that the state is not prepared to go forward with the prosecution of the criminal charge. At most, it conveys that the state did not have sufficient evidence to meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

762 So.2d at 536. In contrast, the State only has to prove a violation of probation by a preponderance of the evidence, which is a lesser standard than what is required to prove the criminal charge. Id. (citing Miller v. State, 661 So.2d 353, 354 (Fla. 4th DCA 1995)). As such, the State may very well have sufficient evidence to meet this lesser burden. See id.

          Because the State's decision to nolle pros the domestic battery charge does not bar it from pursuing the violation of probation charges, the trial court's rulings on the motion to dismiss were erroneous.[3]See id. We, therefore, ...


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